Kim Carnes Biography

20 July 1945, Los Angeles, California, USA. The gravelly voiced Carnes was brought up in Pasedena and is best known for her 1981 pop classic, ‘Bette Davis Eyes’, which won a Grammy award. Her career started as a member of the influential New Christy Minstrels in 1966, and she also appeared alongside future songwriting partner Jackie DeShannon in the low budget 1967 movie C’mon, Let’s Live A Little. Her second solo album, 1975’s Kim Carnes, brought her critical favour, although she was reaping greater success as a songwriter with her husband Dave Ellingson, whom she had met in the New Christy Minstrels. Renowned artists such as Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand recorded her songs, as did another old New Christy Minstrels sparring partner Kenny Rogers who duetted with her on their US Top 5 hit ‘Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer’ in 1980. The previous year Carnes/Ellingson had written all the material for Rogers’ bestselling Gideon.

In 1981, the Jackie DeShannon/Donna Weiss composition ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ topped the US charts for an impressive nine weeks. This lyrically strong number featured Carnes’ husky vocal over a chiming guitar, utilizing one of the best examples of ‘flanging guitar effect’ ever recorded. The follow-up, ‘Draw Of The Cards’, gave prominence to a contagious, swirling, organ-dominated sound, and stalled inside the US Top 30. Mistaken Identity contained both these tracks and topped the US chart for a month during its year long stay. Subsequent albums made a respectable showing in the bestsellers with Carnes enjoying regular visits to the US singles chart. During 1984 she had two major duetted hits, the first, ‘What About Me?’, with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram; three months later she had success duetting with Barbra Streisand on ‘Make No Mistake, He’s Mine’. Carnes was one of the stars to appear on the 1985 USA For Africa charity single ‘We Are The World’, and enjoyed a solo Top 20 hit later in the year with ‘Crazy In The Night (Barking At Airplanes)’. She returned to her country roots for 1988’s View From The House, which featured the country chart hit ‘Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness’, with Lyle Lovett on backing vocals.

During the 90s Carnes established herself in Nashville as a reliable hit songwriter for artists such as Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, Pam Tillis, Suzy Bogguss, Deana Carter, Tanya Tucker, Mindy McCready and Trisha Yearwood, although her own recording career in recent years had been limited to a 1991 Japanese album and three new tracks on a 1993 compilation. It was a welcome return for her fans when she issued a new album in 2004. Carnes has now completed a full circle, proving herself as a successful songwriter in rock, pop and country and entering the record books for one of the longest stays at the coveted number 1 position.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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